App review: Memrise

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App review: Memrise

Post by Abdulrahman » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:17 pm

App: Memrise

Languages picked: Korean and English


Note: I have picked two languages Korean (as a bare beginner), and English (as a non-beginner). I want to see how Memrise works from two different perspectives (i) as a beginner, and (ii) as a non-beginner.

Memrise is a language learning platform, it offers more than 20 languages from different language families such as English, Arabic, Korean, French, etc. It is freely available; however, a learner can subscribe ($8.99 monthly) if they want extra learning moods and more advanced tools. What makes this App (Memrise) unique and different from other Apps is that it helps learn a language through smart ways of repetition, as I will detail below. Also, Memrise offers different learning tools such as learning in groups, meaning a learner can create a group and invite his/her friends to this group where they can share thoughts and practice their target language in depth.

This App offers many courses in each language, some courses are designed by Memrise, and others are designed by other individuals. As for my course (Korean), it is the one designed by Memrise. It is divided into seven parts; each part consists of different levels. For instance, Part 1 (on greetings and alphabet) consists of 15 levels, whereas Part 3 (on phrases related to various topics) consists of 38 levels; both can be completed on average 5-10hrs. Those parts start from low levels to advanced levels; as mentioned they are all freely available.

I chose Korean as a target language as it has a unique writing system, and as a linguist, this seems an eye-opening experience. So, before going deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of Memrise, it might be helpful to illustrate how it generally works. Basically, it focuses on learning by repetition. By ‘repetition’ I mean every time it gives you a new word/phrase with its meaning and how it is pronounced and written in Korean. Then, after you have given five new words, it starts testing you on how far you have mastered these words. There are three ways in which the App can test your mastering of the words presented (i) by listening to an audio (the pronunciation of one of the five words such as ‘aniyo’ means ‘no’) then it asks you to write the word you heard in Korean using English scripts (Latin) such as ‘aniyo’ means ‘no’ and ‘hwanyeong haeyo’ means ‘welcome’, (ii) by giving you the Korean word and asking you to pick its meaning from a list of words, (iii) by listening to an audio (the pronunciation of one of the five words such as ‘aniyo’ means ‘no’) then it asks you, not write it down as in (i), but to select its meaning based on what you heard; you will be given four English words; hence, you have to select the correct meaning for the the Korean word. This is how this App generally works.

I really enjoyed the App, and I will definitely recommend it to my student in the future. It is so smart and helps bare beginners process language in different ways. That is, the way in which the App tests how far a learner masters the new words is really interesting. I think in order for bare beginners to learn and memorize a new set of vocabulary or phrases, these new vocabulary or phrases need to be repeated over and over in different ways. This kind of repetition is an important key for the beginners as it helps them store the information in the long term memory. This is one of the advantages that makes this App unique to me. Another advantageous point for bare beginners is that in case a learner has difficulty matching a word to its meaning, Memrise offers some mnemonic devices (or cues to remember the word meaning), these mnemonic cues are created by learners themselves. For instance, the word ‘문제’ means ‘problem’ or ‘matter’ and it is pronounced and written as ‘mun jea’, so in order for the learner to memorize the meaning of the word ‘mun jea’, the learner might say something like ‘what’s the matter with that MOON, JAY? Is there any problem? (Adapted from Imrolim, Korean learner). This is how mnemonic cues work if a student wants to improve their ability to remember difficult words.

As for the downsides of the App regarding bare beginners, I think the App does not really help students to be writers. More Specifically, the App does not help students put Korean alphabets into practice. It teaches you the letters, but there is no chance for students to freely write in Korean and get feedback; maybe because the App is not designed for that purpose.

Moving on to my second language (English), it seems to me that the App targets learners who want to study Korean (or languages in general) just for basic communication purposes. In other words, it is a good tool for beginners, but for advanced students who want to learn how to write academically, this App might be less beneficial. This does not mean that Memrise is not suitable for advanced learners, rather it means that Memrise is not academically oriented. But if advanced learners want to use Memrise for communication purposes, this is a great tool to invest time and effort in.

To sum up, I think Memrise is a great App for those who want to learn languages for communication purposes such as tourists. It is also a beneficial tool for beginners as it helps sharpen their ears for the vocabulary; in addition, by the end of the course, learners will be able to pronounce L2’s words correctly. Also, as mentioned above, group study is available in Memrise; just create a group and invite your friends and classmates! For these reasons, I will definitely recommend Memrise to my students.

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